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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Nicole Kidman
Mia Wasikowska
Matthew Goode
Jacki Weaver.
Directors
Park Chan-wook.
Screenwriters
Wentworth Miller.
Running Time
98 minutes

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Plot
After her husband dies in a car accident, lonely widow Evie (Kidman) invites his estranged brother (Goode) to stay. This doesn’t sit well with Evie’s strange daughter (Wasikowska), who suspects her uncle of being up to no good and intends to prove her instincts correct.


Review
Stoker
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Imagine Alfred Hitchcock adapting The Addams Family, not especially faithfully, and that should give you some idea of the mood of Park Chan-wook’s superb first English-language film — a very grown-up horror movie. It’s not the sort of horror movie that waves chainsaws around and chases pert young women through the woods. It’s much smarter than that. It’s spooky, clipped and elegantly bonkers, like an ancient dowager aunt.

The story takes place almost entirely in one of those giant, immaculate houses, which movies would have us believe were built so large in order to offer rich people room for all their secrets, where brittle widow Evie (Nicole Kidman) lives with her daughter India (Mia Wasikowska), an 18 year-old who is a creepy mix of old soul and petulant child. Their days pass in loaded glances until the funeral of Evie’s late husband (played in flashback by Dermot Mulroney) brings his younger brother (Matthew Goode), who gets his feet under the table and his fingers in all the family’s troubles. Nobody ever smiles, at least not all the way up to their eyes, and everyone suspects everyone else of being up to no good, usually with perfectly valid reason. It bleeds into a murder mystery, with each character becoming madder and more ambiguous at every turn.

Park directs the film with a precision and control that are astonishing. There doesn’t seem to be a single frame that he hasn’t carefully considered or included without necessity, even if some of the odder ones take a little while to figure out. The imagery is just magnificent, all chilly but dreamy — or possibly nightmarish — his regular cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon giving it a feel a little like Douglas Sirk with more menace. There are touches that could keep film students deliberating for days, notably one transition from hair being brushed to a field of wavering grass, and lots of bits with a spider all but begging for someone to ascribe him a metaphor.

Before disappearing up our fundament, it must be said that rather than make the film feel finickity or pretentious, all this fastidiousness anchors the world. Although what’s happening is deeply unusual and detached from reality, Park’s commitment to its every detail gives it a logical reality of its own and an atmosphere so thick, you can’t see beyond it. In less steady hands it could very easily have become camp, but wherever there might be a temptation to play a scene in high emotion, Park flattens it out, only enhancing the strangeness.

The script, by Wentworth Miller — yes, him from Prison Break — is a very trim piece of work, never wasting a word when a look will do. Miller has cited Bram Stoker’s Dracula as an influence, and presumably source of the title, though really the most it appears to take from that book is a Gothic mood. Nobody’s sucking on anybody’s neck or flying out the window on a little bit of elastic. More evident is its other influence, Hitchcock’s Shadow Of A Doubt, with which it shares a bad Uncle Charlie, the weirdness of intensely close family relationships and the damage childhood can do, although it’s even more twisted than Hitchcock’s film. The savage evil of Shadow Of A Doubt’s ending would just be a kicking-off point here, a little warm-up before the depravity really gets going.

To tell this story in this way, Park needs actors who can do a lot with a little and he’s served by a faultless cast, particularly a prime leading trio. Wasikowska comes over like a more damaged take on Alice In Wonderland, Kidman’s Evie is heartbreaking in her own messy way, and Goode glowers handsomely as if he is simultaneously plotting abominable acts and taking part in history’s most sinister fashion shoot. They’re each powerful enough to hold the screen alone, but the scenes that bring all three together are an exhibition in underplaying. This lot can tense up a casual dinner conversation like nobody’s business.

These are the kind of performances that should be nominated for awards but generally aren’t because there’s absolutely no showing off; no big moment, just a stream of smaller, more effective ones.

Don’t come in expecting the action or screwy aspects of Oldboy or Sympathy For Lady Vengeance, because this is a much more, for want of a better term, formal film than Park is known for. His consistent theme of revenge certainly plays a part, but all the violence is emotional, with even the few moments of actual physical harm taking place mainly off screen. That said, although Stoker is a film told in a much more polite way than Oldboy, it stillhas a soul every bit as artfully cruel.


Verdict
An intense mix of horror, thriller and domestic drama, this is exquisite filmmaking.


Reviewed by Olly Richards


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Stoker
Empire Star Rating

RE: A lovely gloomy helter-skelter...

I don’t know why people rave about this film. I mean it’s not bad but apart from good style it’s boring and predictable. ... More

Posted by magnila_fan at 16:27, 30 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

I thought this film was outstanding! I completely underestimated it and to be honest I am not a fan of Kidman but I loved it! It took me a while afterwards to realize how amazing it was ... More

Posted by CheshireMoon at 11:40, 30 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Spot on

A review I read about this stated it's "...one of the most beautifully directed bad movies I've seen..." and this is definitely my review in a soundbite. Too little story for this amount of directorial effort. While the journey is beautiful to look at, come the end credits there's a really underwhelming feeling of "is that it?" I was waiting for some additional depth, something that I wasn't aware of, but it never came. Try guessing where the story is going as you watch it and you'll pr... More

Posted by Vitamin F at 13:11, 21 October 2013 | Report This Post


Spot on

Love the bit about Matthew Goode who "glowers handsomely as if he is simultaneously plotting abominable acts and taking part in history’s most sinister fashion shoot"! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Enzino at 13:30, 02 October 2013 | Report This Post


A lovely gloomy helter-skelter...

Stoker hovers between arthouse and flat-out melancholia, and while it's not always an easy watch, it's consistently engaging. A bit like a serial killer's whimsical daydream. In a good way. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 23:26, 11 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

In my opinion this film was truly an art piece. The story was well revolved and dangerously chilling. It leaves you curious with the destination the characters will go with what they now have gone through. I though Mia did an incredibly beautiful job as a youthful, deviously sexy girl whom at times you feel guilty for looking at her. You know from the get go there is an uneasy feeling given and the atmosphere keeps you guessing and thinking something will pop out at you. Nicole Kidman was her s... More

Posted by bydabeachman at 18:28, 10 June 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

Stoker delivers thrills, chills and shocks in an inventive and stylish spin on coming of age dramas. Park Chan-Wook’s English language debut tells the story of India Stoker who has recently lost her father and in coming to terms with it displays a side to her character that is glimpsed early on but rages forth later, as she becomes ever more intimate with her eccentric and Uncle Charlie. Mia Wasikowska is great as India, sweetly innocent, but with a look that could kill. It is Park’s direction ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Axel Foley at 15:45, 16 April 2013 | Report This Post


Utterly awesome.

Not my favourite Park Chan-wook film but Stoker does measure up to his other work and that is impressive. Not sure why it was an 18 as it's not very graphic but I suppose the feeling of unease must have affected the bbfc chaps or something. Also - well reviewed :) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ahaig at 13:12, 20 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: ElephantBoy L: OPEN YOUR EYES L: ElephantBoy L: MonsterCat I haven't seen Stoker yet but I refuse to believe it's comparable to b]oom. ark Chan Wook's story-telling style might irk some, and that's understandable, but he's technically accomplished. Tommy Wiseau is a talentless chancer who made a really bad and boring film. hats the Room?ote] Don't go there. it I so want to nowote] You're tearing me apart ElephantBoy! ype in 'the room tommy wise... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 21:21, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: horribleives L: jrewing1000 L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 I think there's a difference between opinion and quality. There do exist gold standards, however general, however basic. Mozart wrote music of higher quality than my 10 year old nephew does. That's not to say I value my 10 year old nephew's music any less. But his music is not as good as Mozart's. Fact. hat's a fairly weak and simplistic analogy that ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 20:54, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 I think there's a difference between opinion and quality. There do exist gold standards, however general, however basic. Mozart wrote music of higher quality than my 10 year old nephew does. That's not to say I value my 10 year old nephew's music any less. But his music is not as good as Mozart's. Fact. hat's a fairly weak and simplistic analogy that doesn't really apply here... More

Posted by horribleives at 13:46, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 I think there's a difference between opinion and quality. There do exist gold standards, however general, however basic. Mozart wrote music of higher quality than my 10 year old nephew does. That's not to say I value my 10 year old nephew's music any less. But his music is not as good as Mozart's. Fact. hat's a fairly weak and simplistic analogy that doesn't really apply here. ccepted. But m... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 13:18, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: Discodez L: jrewing1000 L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 I think there's a difference between opinion and quality. There do exist gold standards, however general, however basic. Mozart wrote music of higher quality than my 10 year old nephew does. That's not to say I value my 10 year old nephew's music any less. But his music is not as good as Mozart's. Fact. hat's a fairly weak and simplistic analogy that doesn't really apply here. ccepted. But my po... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 13:13, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 I think there's a difference between opinion and quality. There do exist gold standards, however general, however basic. Mozart wrote music of higher quality than my 10 year old nephew does. That's not to say I value my 10 year old nephew's music any less. But his music is not as good as Mozart's. Fact. hat's a fairly weak and simplistic analogy that doesn't really apply here. ccepted. But my point is that there ARE... More

Posted by DancingClown at 12:56, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 I think there's a difference between opinion and quality. There do exist gold standards, however general, however basic. Mozart wrote music of higher quality than my 10 year old nephew does. That's not to say I value my 10 year old nephew's music any less. But his music is not as good as Mozart's. Fact. hat's a fairly weak and simplistic analogy that doesn't really apply here. ccepted. But my point is that there ARE... More

Posted by Discodez at 12:51, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 I think there's a difference between opinion and quality. There do exist gold standards, however general, however basic. Mozart wrote music of higher quality than my 10 year old nephew does. That's not to say I value my 10 year old nephew's music any less. But his music is not as good as Mozart's. Fact. hat's a fairly weak and simplistic analogy that doesn't really apply here. ccepted. But my point is that there ARE gold standards, no matt... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 12:40, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 I think there's a difference between opinion and quality. There do exist gold standards, however general, however basic. Mozart wrote music of higher quality than my 10 year old nephew does. That's not to say I value my 10 year old nephew's music any less. But his music is not as good as Mozart's. Fact. hat's a fairly weak and simplistic analogy that doesn't really apply here. ... More

Posted by DancingClown at 12:36, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: ElephantBoy L: OPEN YOUR EYES L: ElephantBoy L: MonsterCat I haven't seen Stoker yet but I refuse to believe it's comparable to b]oom. ark Chan Wook's story-telling style might irk some, and that's understandable, but he's technically accomplished. Tommy Wiseau is a talentless chancer who made a really bad and boring film. hats the Room?ote] Don't go there. it I so want to nowote] The Room is a mindbogglingly awful film which has garnered cult ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 12:29, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: OPEN YOUR EYES L: ElephantBoy L: MonsterCat I haven't seen Stoker yet but I refuse to believe it's comparable to b]oom. ark Chan Wook's story-telling style might irk some, and that's understandable, but he's technically accomplished. Tommy Wiseau is a talentless chancer who made a really bad and boring film. hats the Room?ote] Don't go there. it I so want to now ... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 12:26, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: AxlReznor L: jrewing1000 L: AxlReznor No... you'd be pompous. Just because something is popularly regarded as one of the best things ever, doesn't mean everyone has to conform to that. f course. But surely, SURELY, when it comes to appreciation of art, there is room for right and wrong? Citizen Kane is not regarded as one of the finest films ever made just because a lot of people say so, but because the evidence is there. Same goes for Shakespeare, Monet, Mozart etc... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 12:22, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 L: AxlReznor No... you'd be pompous. Just because something is popularly regarded as one of the best things ever, doesn't mean everyone has to conform to that. f course. But surely, SURELY, when it comes to appreciation of art, there is room for right and wrong? Citizen Kane is not regarded as one of the finest films ever made just because a lot of people say so, but because the evidence is there. Same goes for Shakespeare, Monet, Mozart etc. Are you saying that ... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 12:19, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: ElephantBoy L: MonsterCat I haven't seen Stoker yet but I refuse to believe it's comparable to b]oom. ark Chan Wook's story-telling style might irk some, and that's understandable, but he's technically accomplished. Tommy Wiseau is a talentless chancer who made a really bad and boring film. hats the Room?ote] Don't go there. ... More

Posted by OPEN YOUR EYES at 12:18, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: MonsterCat I haven't seen Stoker yet but I refuse to believe it's comparable to b]oom. ark Chan Wook's story-telling style might irk some, and that's understandable, but he's technically accomplished. Tommy Wiseau is a talentless chancer who made a really bad and boring film. s the Room? ... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 12:16, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 L: AxlReznor No... you'd be pompous. Just because something is popularly regarded as one of the best things ever, doesn't mean everyone has to conform to that. f course. But surely, SURELY, when it comes to appreciation of art, there is room for right and wrong? Citizen Kane is not regarded as one of the finest films ever made just because a lot of people say so, but because the evidence is there. Same goes for Shakespeare, Monet, Mozart etc. Are you saying th... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 12:13, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: AxlReznor No... you'd be pompous. Just because something is popularly regarded as one of the best things ever, doesn't mean everyone has to conform to that. f course. But surely, SURELY, when it comes to appreciation of art, there is room for right and wrong? Citizen Kane is not regarded as one of the finest films ever made just because a lot of people say so, but because the evidence is there. Same goes for Shakespeare, Monet, Mozart etc. Are you saying that if someone said to yo... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 12:11, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


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